Waking on the heels of a 10-20 season, with a record of 0-8 in conference, the Oswego State women’s volleyball team knew it would be in for a change in the 2011 season. However, it was the severity of the change that had been underestimated.
Old coaches leaving and new coaches surfacing are changes that most teams can transition into easily. But in a case when veterans are cut, causing others to quit, a team of entirely new faces has to be ushered in – resulting in a whole new era of Oswego State volleyball.
After spending 10 years coaching at Oswego State former coach Pat Hanlon decided to retire from her position saying that “she had grandchildren and felt that it was time,” according to former captain Katie van Kessel.
Anytime a position is vacant, it needs to be quickly filled in preparation for the following season. Betsy Hayden, the former volleyball and softball coach at Onondaga Community College, was selected to fill that spot.
“It’s great to be working with such a hardworking group of girls who have fun personalities and lots of success ahead of them,” Hayden said.
For a program that expected a change in coaching staff, it certainly did not expect to have a team comprised of 10 newcomers, referring to those who have never experienced the preparation and dedication that goes into a Division III collegiate athletic contest.
The young group of girls consists of one junior, three sophomores, six freshmen and no seniors.
A challenge as daunting as this could seem insurmountable to any team, but the coach has faith in her new squad.
“I definitely have confidence in this young team,” Hayden said. “I’m not concerned because the work ethic is there. We need to eliminate the peaks and valleys which come with their youth.”
What would surprise most people is how a 2010 team with mostly sophomores and juniors can turn into a 2011 team with mostly freshmen and sophomores.
Tryouts this season were highly competitive and all of the players, the ten returners included, knew that they had to come to the gym and compete at the highest possible level at all times.
As all coaches do, Hayden has the final decision as to who stays and who goes. Tryouts lasted for three days; the first session was held on Friday, Aug. 26. Throughout that weekend, players were tested on not only their volleyball skills and fundamentals, but a fitness test as well.
When tryouts came to a close on Sunday, Aug. 28, Hayden ultimately had decided that van Kessel and four other returners (junior Brittany Jones, junior Courtney Price, junior Stephany Olsheski and senior Morgan Grimes) would not best fit the team this year.
“It was devastating…the girls were crushed that their family had been ripped in two,” van Kessel said.
With five veterans having been cut, only five remained to make the most out of an emotional situation.
According to van Kessel, the other five attempted to tough it out because they wanted to keep the team alive and they love volleyball.
The first test to the new season came only two days afterward when the Lakers played in a scrimmage. The five returning upperclassmen thought it felt unusual on the court.
“They told me that nothing felt the same,” van Kessel said. “They described it as an entirely different atmosphere in the gym.”
Two days later the remaining players from the 2010 roster went to Hayden and quit.
With only 10 players remaining on the roster for the remainder of the season, the women’s volleyball team had taken on an even tougher task than originally planned.
On Thursday, Sept. 1, it was time to move on, work with what was at hand, and continue preparation for the regular season. The first step was taken when Hayden named sophomore Meaghan Puff the captain for the 2011 volleyball campaign.
“Being named a sophomore captain was nerve-racking, but my goal is to bring everyone together and find a common meeting point so we can work as a team to achieve our goals,” Puff said.
Aside from hard work, no matter the sport, team chemistry is crucial.
“We all love each other…are super close…have each other’s back, and off the court we are amazing friends,” Puff said.
After the Potsdam Invitational took place during the second weekend in September, the Lakers were excited after winning the final game in the tournament against Cazenovia College. Helping her team to victory was freshman standout Kara Michelsen, who recorded 21 assists accompanied by four kills. These numbers, along with others throughout the weekend earned Michelsen the honor of being named to the All-Tournament team.
Unfortunately, this past week the Lakers dropped their fifth game of the year to St. John Fisher putting their record at 1-5. But optimism runs high, as they will attempt to improve their record this weekend in Schenectady, N.Y. when they play in the Union College Invitational.
“We’re working so hard and still adjusting…and at times, they’re amazing to watch,” Hayden said.
Now depending on the perspective, mixed emotions can be found all over the events that have transpired in the three weeks since campus opened. Ramifications can be felt from all angles.
For a group of 10 girls, competitive volleyball careers have come to an end and in the process an athletic family has ceased to exist.